Category Archives: Politics

Zoning and Rotation: Is It Time to End #Nigeria’s ‘Gentleman’s Agreement’?


The Gentleman’s Agreement That Could Break Apart Nigeria

Max Siollun

My article in Foreign Policy magazine last week about the implications of President Buhari’s ill health on Nigeria’s political stability and zoning arrangement. 
ABUJA, Nigeria — For the second time in seven years, the political stability of Africa’s most populous nation hinges on the health of one man. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari is once again in Britain for medical treatment because of an undisclosed illness. He was there for almost two months earlier this year, and in June 2016 he spent nearly two weeks abroad being treated for an ear infection. In the past month, he missed three straight cabinet meetings due to sickness, and perhaps more tellingly for a devout Muslim, he missed Friday mosque prayers in Abuja, where he usually attends without fail.

Buhari’s unwillingness to disclose the nature or extent of his illness fuels rumors that he is terminally ill or, periodically, that he has already died. Last month, Garba Shehu, a spokesman for the president, was forced to issue a series of tweets denying that anything unpleasant happened to the president. He added that reports of Buhari’s ill health are “plain lies spread by vested interests to create panic.” Buhari’s wife recently tweeted that his health is “not as bad as it’s being perceived.”

Regardless of the severity of his illness, Buhari’s extended absence risks igniting an ugly power struggle that would threaten not just the political fortunes of his ruling party but also a long observed gentleman’s agreement that has been critical to maintaining the stability of the country.

The unwritten power-sharing agreement obliges the country’s major parties to alternate the presidency between northern and southern officeholders every eight years. It was consolidated during Nigeria’s first two democratic transfers of power — in 1999 and 2007 — and it alleviated the southern secessionist pressures that had festered under decades of military rule by dictators from the north. For a time, this mechanism for alternating power helped keep the peace in a country with hundreds of different ethnic groups and more than 500 different languages. But it was never intended to be permanent, and as Buhari’s illness demonstrates, it has increasingly become a source of tension rather than consensus.

If Buhari, a northerner, doesn’t finish his term of office, and power passes to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, a Christian from the south, it will be the second time in seven years that the north’s “turn” in the presidency has been cut short. In late 2009, then-President Umaru Yar’Adua, who like Buhari was a Muslim from the north, traveled abroad for treatment for an undisclosed illness. When Yar’Adua died in office the following year, his southern Christian vice president, Goodluck Jonathan, succeeded him, setting the stage for an acrimonious split within the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) over whether Jonathan should merely finish out Yar’Adua’s term or run to retain the office in the 2011 election.

In the end, Jonathan ran and won in 2011. But not before 800 people were killed in riots in the north after the PDP allowed Jonathan to contest the election. The anti-Jonathan faction later resigned in protest and defected to the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) party. Buhari led the APC to victory over the PDP in 2015.

An eerily similar scenario is now playing out in Buhari’s APC party. If Buhari dies, resigns, or is declared medically incapacitated by the cabinet, it would likely ignite a similar struggle within the APC over whether Vice President Osinbajo should permanently succeed him as president. A group of prominent northerners has already stated that Osinbajo should serve merely as an interim president and that he cannot replace Buhari on the ticket in the 2019 presidential election. Should Osinbajo succeed Buhari, win the 2019 election, and serve a full term, a Christian southerner will have been president for 18 of the 24 years since Nigeria transitioned to democracy in 1999.

There is a chance that APC leaders will convince — or force — Osinbajo to stand down in favor of another Muslim candidate from the north. But sidelining Osinbajo would pose other sectarian risks. He was chosen as Buhari’s running mate in part to counter southern accusations that the APC is a Muslim party. And although he is seen as a technocrat, Osinbajo is a powerful political force in his own right — too powerful, perhaps, to be sidelined in 2019 without alienating millions of voters. He is a pastor in the country’s largest evangelical church, which has some 6 million members, and his wife is the granddaughter of Obafemi Awolowo, one of Nigeria’s early independence politicians who is beloved in southwest Nigeria.

Yet if the north’s “turn” in power is interrupted again, it will further alienate the region — already home to the bloody Boko Haram insurgency, which has thrived in part because of government neglect — and make north-south cooperation on security, development, and a host of other critical issues more difficult. It could easily lead to another round of deadly riots, as it did in 2011. But there is a way out.

Nigeria should abandon the convention of north-south presidential power rotation now that it has outlived its purpose. At the same time, it should deepen power sharing in state and local governments, which have steadily gained influence relative to the national government since 1999. Many of the country’s 36 states and 774 local governments already practice some form of power rotation among politicians from different ethnic, religious, and geographic groups. The key will be to frame the abolition of power rotation at the presidential level as an opportunity to strengthen these norms at the state and local levels — not a chance to terminate them everywhere at once.

The reality is that most Nigerians experience government at the local level anyway. Regardless of whether Buhari or Osinbajo is in the presidential palace, state and local officials have the most purchase on the lives of ordinary citizens. Letting go of a dangerous convention at the national level while devolving more power to inclusive governance structures at the local level offers a way out of the current impasse.

 

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26th Anniversary of the Orkar Coup in #Nigeria


Today is the 26th anniversary of the April 1990 coup attempt against General Babangida in Nigeria. Rather than rehash the events  (which I have written about before) in this post, I have instead included links where you can read all about the coup in an account by one of its plotters, and another view of the coup by General Babangida’s former Chief Security Officer.

That coup was a watershed in Nigeria, and accelerated the turn of events that led to the insurgency in the Niger Delta, and indirectly to the controversy that followed the June 12, 1993 election annulment, and the “power shift” to the south in 1999.

If you want to read more about the Orkar coup and these tumultuous years, you can of course do so in my book “Soldiers of Fortune: A History of Nigeria (1983-1993)“.

Have a great weekend everyone.

 

 

40th Anniversary of Murtala Muhammed’s Assasination



4-murtala-muhammed-car-bullet-holes-cap_naijarchives

 

 mutala-car

 

Today is the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Nigeria’s former military head of state General Murtala Muhammed. He was assassinated on February 13, 1976, on his way to work during an abortive coup. Full details of Murtala’s life and the events that led to his death are in my book Oil, Politics and Violence: Nigeria’s Military Coup Culture.

 

Murtala’s car was ambushed by a group of soldiers in Lagos and he was shot to death. Above is a photo of the bullet riddled car in which he was killed. Note the bullet holes in the windscreen.

 

Brigadier Murtala Muhammed Overthrows General Gowon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dw8iHwN-V0s

 

US State Department Report on Murtala Muhammed: https://maxsiollun.wordpress.com/2012/06/26/us-state-department-report-on-murtala-muhammed/

 

Murtala Muhammed’s speech on Nigerian democracy: https://www.facebook.com/157457414278806/videos/1851800698475/

The assassination of Murtala Muhammed:
https://maxsiollun.wordpress.com/2009/02/13/the-assasination-of-murtala-muhammed/

 

https://maxsiollun.wordpress.com/2014/02/13/february-13-1976-the-death-of-murtala-muhammed/

Brigadier Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Speaks to the press about Coup Plot: https://www.facebook.com/157457414278806/videos/1849886570623/

Lt-Colonel Dimka speaks to the press: https://www.facebook.com/157457414278806/videos/1851800698475/

Lt-General Obasanjo announces execution of coup convicts: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjEA83pgstg&list=PLTCNM3JtW0UlisCGV98STnBtiGoS7YTaZ&index=3

Max Siollun (@maxsiollun) | Twitter

Live TV Links to Watch #Nigeria #MinisterialScreening


Channels TV:

https://www.youtube.com/user/channelsweb

http://www.channelstv.com/live/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ANM-dq5USTc

 

 

NTAhttp://www.nta.ng/live/

 

 

Video Scenes: #Buhari Sworn in as #Nigeria’s President


From Eagle Square in Abuja, Nigeria. A lot of “chatter” about Buhari’s new aide-de-camp (ADC) Lt-Colonel M. Lawal Abubakar (of the military police). People were curious about his white uniform and red cap. Incidentally a military police officer as ADC to the President gives a strong clue as to who is likely to be the next National Security Adviser or Minister of Defence under Buhari. It has been rumoured for a while that former Chief of Army Staff Lt-General Abdulrahaman Bello Dambazau would have a prominent role in Buhari’s government. Well, when he was in the army Dambazau served in…the military police (the same corps as Buhari’s new ADC)…

The military ceremony was led by the Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) of the Brigade of Guards Master Warrant-Officer Kolo Aboko (under the command of the commander of the Brigade of Guards Brigadier-General Anthony Bamidele Omozeje). They presided over the handing over the ceremonial instruments of office (Nigerian flag and armed forces flag from former President Jonathan).

Buhari’s full inaugural speech: http://www.vanguardngr.com/2015/05/read-president-buhari-inaugural-speech/

http://uk.reuters.com/article/2015/05/29/uk-nigeria-politics-idUKKBN0OE0SM20150529

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9euJ8Xtu4Iw

#Buhari 1.0: “The Most Authoritarian Government of All”


https://www.facebook.com/157457414278806/videos/987714334586439/

A video report on the controversies of Buhari’s first tenure in government.

Photos of President Jonathan Taking #Buhari on a Tour of #Nigeria Presidential Villa


Outgoing President Goodluck Jonathan led president-elect Muhammadu Buhari on a tour of the presidential villa at Aso Rock in Abuja. Jonathan gave Buhari the presidential handover notes. Buhari was accompanied by his son and daughter.

#Nigeria’s Governors-Elect: All 36 States – #NigeriaDecides


APC: All Progressives Congress
APGA: All Progressives Grand Alliance
PDP: Peoples Democratic Party

STATE GOVERNOR PARTY
Abia Okezie Ikpeazu PDP
Adamawa Bindo Jibrilla APC
Akwa Ibom Udom Emmanuel PDP
Anambra Willie Obiano APGA
Bauchi Muhammed Abubakar APC
Bayelsa Henry Dickson PDP
Benue Samuel Otom APC
Borno Kashin Shettima APC
Cross River Ben Ayade PDP
Delta Ifeanyi Okowa PDP
Ebonyi Dave Umahi PDP
Edo Adams Oshiomole APC
Ekiti Ayodele Fayose PDP
Enugu Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi PDP
Gombe Ibrahim Dankwambo PDP
Imo Rochas Okorocha APC
Jigawa Badaru Abubakar APC
Kaduna Nasir El-Rufai APC
Kano Umar Ganduje APC
Kebbi Atiku Bagudu APC
Kogi Yahaya Bello PDP
Kwara Abdulfatah Ahmed APC
Lagos Akinwuinmi Ambode APC
Nasarawa Tanko Al-Makura APC
Niger Abubakar Sani Bello APC
Ogun Ibikunle Amosun APC
Ondo Olusegun Mimiko PDP
Osun Rauf Aregbesola APC
Oyo Abiola Ajimobi APC
Plateau Simon Bako Lalong APC
Rivers Nyesom Wike PDP
Sokoto Aminu Tambuwal APC
Taraba Darius Ishaku PDP
Yobe Ibrahim Geidam APC
Zamfara Abdulaziz Abubakar APC

Brigadier Muhammadu #Buhari in 1980 – @thisisbuhari


https://www.facebook.com/157457414278806/photos/a.931870303504176.1073741825.157457414278806/967282313296308/?type=3&theater

#Buhari: What Should #Nigeria Expect from Buhari Version 2.0? A Different Man #Nigeriadecides


My Op-Ed article in the New York Times about how Buhari is likely to govern in his second stint in power.

In order to succeed, he must learn from what happened to him in 1985.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/09/opinion/can-nigerias-former-dictator-muhammadu-buhari-become-a-democrat.html
Excerpt:

In most countries, a 72-year-old retired general who once led a severe military dictatorship that imprisoned its opponents without trial, publicly executed convicts by firing squad, arrested journalists who criticized it, ran an Orwellian intelligence apparatus that bugged the phones of government ministers — a man whose overthrow three decades ago was welcomed with relief by his countrymen, and who lost three consecutive presidential elections in 12 years — would be considered unelectable.

http://t.co/8ut41QNiZO